Little Atoms

So didja listen to JS on Little Atoms? It was pretty funny, in an absurd sort of way. He has some kind of bee in his bonnet that people who sign the Euston Manifesto think it is going to set off a mass progressive movement. It turned up in that HERO interview too. HERO asked ‘Ophelia, you are a signatory to the Euston Manifesto, and Butterflies and Wheels is an affiliated site. What are your expectations of the movement for a rational left, and how much do you feel that blogging and, more widely, the internet has contributed to the timing of this development?’ and he answered –

The Euston Manifesto will die a quick death. There is no chance for any kind of mass movement of the rational left, and blogging and the internet will have little effect outside the chattering classes. I think there is an interesting point here about wishful thinking, irrationalism, etc., which is that it has always been the case that the politically engaged – well, large numbers of them anyway – have very little sense of just how uninterested the mass of the population are in politics.

But notice – the HERO question doesn’t say anything about a mass movement – JS inserted that ‘mass’ himself, for no apparent reason. Of course I don’t bloody think the Euston Manifesto is going to set off a mass movement! I’m not insane, or delusional, or on Ecstasy. Just signing something isn’t such a huge colossal effort that making the effort implies a magical belief that it will change the universe. I signed the dang Euston Manifesto (despite disagreeing with parts of it, especially the part about the US as a great country – I think the US’s tragically broken political system makes it difficult to say that without instant qualification) for the same sort of reason I (and presumably JS) co-wrote WTM, and I have to point out, signing the EM was a great deal less work and took up far less time. If writing that book was worth doing (and I think JS thinks it was) then why wouldn’t siging a manifesto you mostly agree with be worth doing? Consider: the first takes some months, the second takes – what? five seconds?

I’ll have to give him a good sharp talking-to on the subject if I ever get the chance. But it made for some pretty funny listening – you could tell the hosts were starting to want to slap him. I know the feeling. snicker. There was also some nonsense about how people who disagree with religion (people like me, it seems, since he muttered something about me before launching that particular tirade) don’t understand about death and loss. Now really. Really. He would know, if he ever read the essays I write for TPM Online, that at least half of them are about nothing else; that I’m obsessed with the subject. I mean really.

Then there was the beginning where he said actually he’s not sure truth does matter – that was amusing too. (Mind you, in the sense he meant, nor do I, and I spent the first couple of pages of the book saying so. But ‘why truth matters in rational empirical inquiry’ would have been a not very catchy title, so we didn’t bother suggesting it.) Anyway, it was quite an entertaining interview.

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